“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
Why this phrase would mean anything in relation to the Hungary – Ireland football friendly would be to understand me a little better. A few years ago the Rolling Stones came to Budapest and I laboured over my decision to go, till the point of no return, i.e. the day after the concert was over! Never having had the opportunity before, unless I count my working in the Ajax Arena during their Bridges to Babylon tour where alas I was situated utterly underground, I dismissed it with fair aplomb. But if it were confined to the high and mighty the expense could be an excuse. However, I’ve done the same with free exhibitions, cultural events etc. So when presented with the prospect of seeing Ireland play here in Budapest, and let me add I’ve never been to an international football match, friendly or otherwise, I could hardly pass the chance up, except that this has often seemed to be my Modus Operandi.
Late in the day and ticketless I still had the resolve. Adventure was the name of the game when it came to arriving on the night with hand out a-begging; I was not perturbed. I thrived on the spontaneous, the unpredictable (you might say this of any Irish football fan!) and this was what the moment presented.
The first glitch came when a friend pulled out leaving me to face the beast all alone. The prospect of wandering aimlessly suddenly took on a tainted appeal. The alternative: to watch it in a pub and thereby surrendering to my nature, my track record, began to beckon. My shoulders hunched, my head dropped, and I could feel the last gasp shudder of resignation. Then suddenly; maybe it was the beer, or maybe it was the plain stubbornness, but I gallantly stepped forth (really?) and braved the oncoming storm and struck out to face my destiny. I would prevail this time. I would not let this town, and my sheer laziness propel me to another defeat. I had oft times before suffered at the hands of such excuses but tonight, I knew, would be different. Hurrah!
“Where’s Noah?” a friend I happened to have met, cried out.
I wasn’t sure he was coming but I did find encouragement in the notion that maybe I was one of two if the choices were to be made. Why me, you may ask. No other reason than like all humans I am basically ego-centric. I have my preservation instincts, and what’s more I was surrounded by a sea of people unknown to me. Even my friend was merely a pub friend. By that, I mean, he was somebody I only ever met when in the…, well you guessed it, the pub!
I had reached the Puskás Stadium and had the fortune to meet some Hungarians who offered me a ticket, at face value, and so I was on my merry way. The rain, the torrential rain, did nothing to dampen (!) my spirits. If anything, it only served to seal my ambition. Ticket-ful, I marched forward, a drenched anybody in a tide of everybodys.
Beyond the queuing and the further moistening we were soon to emerge from outside into the interior. Somewhat liberated from all the pushing and shoving we still had to contend with the wet. Soaked to the skin surely applied here but what was most troubling was that my phone was amid all that water, somewhere buried deep in a tangle of soggy tissues and sundry. It was a worry but was also nothing I could in the immediacy do anything about.
After a twenty minute delay the match was underway. The crowd roared, the chances came and went, and all wrapped itself up nicely into an experience, and that it was. It was my first international, I had had to brave the initial solitude, and I had gotten one hell of a steeping in cloud juice and, whereas, my prune-tipped fingers could be reinvigorated by a constant rubbing, the foot-stamping did little for my toes. The water-logged socks held them together, almost amniotically. I prayed that nought would creep forth from within when I finally ventured to peel those ragged bindings off.
As to my feelings on the match they could best be described as reserved. It was in truth a mediocre affair with little to entertain, or at least it would have been had I been stuck in a pub or at home. Instead in the stadium and my condition abounding I found myself peculiarly elated. So what if there had been no goals. Who cares if there wasn’t all that much action? So what! Who cares? Maybe others did but I didn’t. I had conquered the demon that was distraction, the devil that was my inner voice, the anchor that too often since moving to Budapest had weighed me down instead of spurring me on. I had done what I had set out to do. Finally (Végre), and I was none the worse for wear.